By PATRICK McCRAY
Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 858
Petofi and Quentin have switched bodies, and the magician keeps a watch as his now pudgy prisoner buries the woman used as a test subject for an I Ching jump into the future. Petofi swears he will keep looking as Quentin vows to stop him. Visiting an unaware Angelique, Petofi is all too happy to go along with her marriage threats, if only to bring her into submission. Quentin, however, attempts to turn things to his favor. To rally allies, he must convince them that he is Quentin Collins, within. He visits Beth and implores her to question “Quentin” about why Jamison turned him away. When “Quentin” answers her with predictable inadequacy, the story seems to make sense. Quentin then goes to Julia, who needs less convincing. She’s been feeling strangely, and hears voices from her present. She convinces Angelique to take a stand against Petofi. As the episode ends, Julia is laying out her battle plan, but vanishes from sight before she can finish.
This episode is a 100%, unalloyed peach. Just when the low-stakes, repetitive, toothless yakety yak of the show’s drier spells becomes intolerable, Uncle Dan gives us one of these. It doesn’t remind me about when I fell in love with the show, because that had happened long before. An episode like this is why I shall have no show before this one. I am Dr. Alfred Bellows, and this episode is a pink elephant in Major Nelson’s dining room. Normally, I’d vow that “I’ve finally got him this time” and get General Shaffer to see that I’m not cracking up. Which means I’d get someone who knows nothing of DARK SHADOWS but hates it anyway to come over and see it. But by the time they’d arrive, it would just be an early Leviathan episode. Then they’d tell me that I needed a long rest… perhaps reassigned to Alaskan air command. And I’d wonder if they were right. What’s stranger about all of this is that I’m not Dr. Bellows. I am Roger Healey to Wallace’s Tony Nelson. But who is Jeannie? Probably the CollinsBabe who posed for the MONSTER SERIAL cheesecake picture.
Back to the episode, there’s a lot going on in it, so I’ll cover things as vacuously and superficially as I can. First off, we get two of the show’s finest actors at their best. Thayer David can pull on the heartstrings with an authenticity matched by few, if any. Petofi’s bizarre hair and outfit now make him huggably sad, and the glasses magnify all of the fear in his lunar eyes. Meanwhile, David Selby gets to really cut a rug as Petofi, reveling in evil with a vicious glee. Just as Jonathan Frakes was wasted in drama when his true calling was comedy, it may be that Selby is one acting’s great villains, unrealized. This is Quentin unbound! Perhaps this was a chance to show what Quentin was intended to be, sans his alcoholic’s insecurity and melancholy. He kisses Angelique with a passionately ruthless relish that makes Rhett kissing Scarlett look like Charles Grodin kissing a dog. And then what does “Quentin” do? He brags of the submission he’ll take her to and shrugs when she goes to her millner. In a lot of ways, it’s the carpet calling that she’s had coming. Nice guys are always advised to be less, well, nice, and that women like bad boys. I never understood that, but I’ll pretend I do in this case. I think Angelique knows she’s pushing her weight around and must get bored. Finally, “Quentofi” pushes back. Was she angry when he kissed her, laughed, and put her in her place, or was she aroused? Intellectually, of course.
Speaking of Angelique, this episode represents what I see as a marvelous turning point. As Julia is being drawn back to the 20th century, she nonetheless charges Angelique with saving the family. Read that one again. There’s a fair degree of fear in Angelique’s eyes at hearing that precisely because there is no fear behind the request. Despite herself, she has earned Julia’s trust. This is one of the great hints that, like Barnabas, Angelique has the capacity for revealing the hero within, and Julia clearly recognizes that. They have some wonderfully relaxed two-handers together, and it’s a strange, unexpected, and marvelous thing to see these two one-time antagonists to Barnabas now quietly ruminating on how they can support his Quixotic crusade. Who saw this coming two years ago? Me neither. And that’s why DARK SHADOWS must be 1,225 chapters long. (More or less.)
Last gem in the crown? A very clever bit of subtext (or maybe just text). A simple message. Greg Mank mentioned it when talking about THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.... “Very pretty people can do very nasty things.” Petofi, I think, is measurably nastier and cruel in Quentin’s body. Now looking the rake, with height and lean muscle to back it up, he needs humor, charm, and facetiousness far less. Oh, those things exist, but they exist now as unsheathed weapons rather than the inflatable boppers of irony used by Petofi the Plump. We are trained to feel sorry for the physically ungainly and the humor they often employ to win friends and deflect criticism. Well, I don’t. Actually, there’s a proper humility there that can bring out astounding measures of humanity. I feel sorry for those people who lose weight or get significant others and then become royal cretins. I see it again and again. There is a smugness that takes hold, and on behalf of the rest of us, it’s not your best side. So, have you just lost weight? Found the partner of your dreams? Pretend you haven’t. At least in the full-of-selfness department. Sincerely, the Management. Need proof? Watch Quentofi in this episode.
In DARK SHADOWS news, Hugh Franklin died today in 1986. He was family lawyer, Richard Garner, in the early part of the series and, as noted elsewhere, was married to author Madeleine L'Engle. At this time in 1969, we’re about nine episodes away from the end of Jonathan Frid’s well-earned month off. As for Sept. 26, 1969? Visionary storyteller Sherwood Schwartz once again challenged our notions of storytelling, nation, and reality with the premier of THE BRADY BUNCH. This was written by me for the DVD boxed set. It was rejected. For now:
When maverick producer Sherwood Schwartz gave us THE BRADY BUNCH, it was considered more science fiction than science fact. Nearly five decades later, history has established that Schwartz was a prophet as well as a poet. Far too many of the ominous predictions he made in this series have come to pass. And many more of his dangerous visions seem to be approaching swiftly. He is our dark mirror. Given this, it was once said that an audience receives from Sherwood Schwartz exactly what they bring. What you see this on these discs might delight you. It might shock you. It might even even arouse you. The iconoclastic, enigmatic Sherwood Schwartz: heretic or hero? Madman or messiah? To find the truth, we must explore the only testament we have: his bold words. The art of Sherwood Schwartz is an art that demands to be confronted. A voice that demands an answer. Join me in the arena as we hear that voice and answer that call together.